Tillage farmers needed to grow high-quality forage crops

Tillage farmers are needed to grow high-quality forage crops. This comes as dairy farmers, especially those pushing stocking rates, look further afield for land to grow winter forage crops.

As the distance of rented land increases away from the main grazing block, so too do the costs of production. Therefore, it can often make more sense to grow high-yielding and high-energy crops.

Crops such as maize and beet may be able to replace grass silage and concentrates in the diets of dairy animals.

While these crops are attractive to use, experience with crop husbandry is needed and tillage farmers can fill this gap.

Both crops require a lot of care in terms of: site and variety choice; good seedbed preparation; and weed control.

In beet crops, in particular, weeds take a lot of attention to control. Pests, disease and nutrition also need to be monitored.

Both maize and beet respond better with higher temperatures. On average, these crops yield very well. However, many farmers are hesitant to grow these crops due to lower yields and dry matter contents during a cold year.

Therefore, experience in crop husbandry is essential to take out as much risk as possible.

Earlier this week, Goldcrop held a maize and beet open day in Co. Cork. One of the messages projected on the day was that tillage farmers should make the most of this opportunity.

They should try to find customers for these forage crops and draw up a contract before the crop is planted. This will ensure that each party involved is happy and secure in the agreement.

Growing these crops can also benefit tillage farmers, as they become part of their crop rotation. It may also be possible to import slurry onto these sites, which can also help to bring up soil fertility levels.